How I Got the News

If you have MS, you probably remember very well the day you were diagnosed. This is my story.

I called my primary care physician’s office on Wednesday to find out if they’d received the results from the MRI that I had done on Monday. The receptionist told me in her cheery voice:  “No news is good news!”

By Friday, I was ready for the weekend and couldn’t wait to finish work and get home. I had plans with my husband at the time to go to a Social Distortion concert — a rare night out alone without our baby.

After I finished getting myself all ready for my evening plans, the phone rang. Standing in my kitchen with my 9-month-old son Jake on my left hip, I answered. It was my doctor. Why was he calling so late? Without hesitation he asked, “Are you sitting down?” 

“Should I be?” I responded. There was a long pause. I didn’t sit.

“Tricia, you have multiple sclerosis. I will put in a referral for you to see a neurologist.”

I honestly don’t remember anything else from the conversation, including what I said in response to him…perhaps a shocked “Thank you” before I hung up the phone. I had no idea what multiple sclerosis was, how to spell it, what it was going to do to me, and most importantly, what it meant for my future. I held Jake in my arms and just stood there.

It was 1994. I was 23 years old.

Needless to say, I skipped the concert. I spent the night at the library researching MS; this was in the days before the Internet.

Over the years I’ve shared my diagnosis story with many physicians. I always tell them how unsettling it was to be told over the phone that I had a chronic, debilitating disease with no cure. I’ve had many doctors thank me for this insight, as they are sure to go about breaking the news in person with their future patients. (And ideally, their patients will be accompanied by someone who can be a support.)

I realized early on that I was supposed to share my story. If I’ve helped one person avoid being completely terrified after hearing the words “you have multiple sclerosis,” that would be enough to make me happy. But I’m certain it’s more than one, and that gives me  purpose.

I encourage you to share your story with others too, especially those who are recently diagnosed. It helps all of us with MS to know that we’re not alone.

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5 thoughts on “How I Got the News

  1. Wow… I realize that this was quite a few years ago, but over the phone? Really?? C’mon, doctors. Surely y’all learn better than that in medical school.

    Tricia, I commend you for giving others a voice. That’s one thing about those of us who advocate for our respective diseases: we do so that others who might follow in our footsteps might find the path even a tad smoother.

  2. […] turned to mush after late-night dips in the Jacuzzi with my girlfriends. So, as scary as it was to get my diagnosis at age 24, it was also a relief. Some of those mysteries were solved, and I was able to get on a therapy that […]

  3. […] “I am fine. That’s the toughest thing,” he said on “The Talk.” He went on to explain how MS is a “completely unpredictable disease,” and likened it to the “arthritis of the nervous system,” a good analogy. He said he had bladder problems, vision problems and numbness in his legs before his diagnosis. In some ways, it sounded a lot like my own diagnosis story. […]

  4. larryhonline says:

    Thank you for sharing.

  5. […] Copaxone, but I consider this new drug to be great progress for the MS world. I think back to 1994 when I was diagnosed; at the time there was only one therapy available. One! I was on Betaseron for over two years […]

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